Janet Mock is an Emmy-nominated Writer, Executive, Director and Producer for the FX drama series POSE and the Netflix limited series MONSTER and HOLLYWOOD. She is also a New York Times bestselling author of two memoirs, Redefining Realness (2014) and Surpassing Certainty (2017). She was also named one of TIME’s 100 most influential people. She has written for The New York Times, The New Yorker and Marie Claire, and has appeared on the covers of Marie Claire, Entertainment Weekly, British VOGUE, and the Hollywood Reporter.
Janet Mock was born as a male in impoverished Honolulu, Hawaii. Her father, Charlie, is African-American, while her mother, Elizabeth, is Hawaiian. The family was dysfunctional and broken but loving in their own chaotic way. After the couple split, Mock went to live with her father in Oakwood, California. She says, “My father definitely took on the role of: ‘I’m your father, and you are my son, and, therefore, it’s my responsibility to correct you. So, all of your feminine ways, I need to berate them out of you, police them out of you.’ His job was to contain me.”
Due to multiple clashes with her father, at the age of 12, she returned to Hawaii, where she turned a new leaf in her life and began to own her true self in its entirety. Mock was also helped by the fact that gender is relatively fluid in Hawaii. The word ‘māhū’ refers to a third gender. It is a pejorative for drag queens and gay men in the region.
She began her transition to a woman as a freshman in high school. Her mother never discouraged her from embracing her feminine side. Talking about her mother, she says, “She had a lighter touch around all of that stuff. She had a higher, quote-unquote tolerance for my gender nonconformity. And I was able to meet new friends, and that’s when the queen of my life came in, my best friend, Wendi, she really was the savior for me.”
After meeting Wendi, Mock was exposed to the idea of medical transition: “Take your Premarin, then go on to shots, and then have whatever surgeries you want to have. It was always something that I was planning toward, but I didn’t know how I would be able to afford it,” she says.
However, things transpired quickly when Mock met Stacey, a beautiful trans woman. She says, “I knew that she came from where I came from, in terms of socioeconomic background, in terms of being assigned male at birth—all of these things. So she became the gateway. I remember she started Premarin a few months before I did. And then she got tired of taking Premarin because it bloated her and she was, like, ‘I’m going to start taking shots, so you can start taking my Premarin. Just give me thirty dollars for them.'”
And so, she began her transition all behind her mother’s back. She explained, “It was giving myself permission to do what I knew I needed to do in order to find my own sense of freedom and liberation and contentness in my body.” She got the money by working as a sex worker since her family was going through a tough time financially.
When she turned eighteen, she went on a ten-day trip to Thailand and had surgery to complete the transition. She says, “There was this weight that I particularly felt about that part of my body that, for me, just was so dissonant to the image I had in my head of myself, of my own ideal. And so to be able to get up one day, and to stand up, and to not have this void, was just so deeply affirming.”
With a keen determination to succeed in life, she was the first member of her family to attend college. After graduating from the University of Hawaii, she moved to New York to attend New York University for journalism and follow her life’s passion. She graduated with a master’s degree in 2006 and began working for People Magazine. Mock worked tirelessly at People.com for five years and eventually became a Web Editor.
In 2011, she experienced a turning point in life; she finally told her story in a magazine article published by Marie Claire after learning about the spike in the rates of transgender children committing suicide. She decided to share her story as a form of consolation and encouragement that led to her to becoming an icon for transgender women worldwide.
She received tremendous support and love after her article that led to her first book, Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More, which narrated her childhood in Hawaii, her profession as a sex worker, and her romance with her now ex-husband, Aaron Tredwell. The book was published in 2014 and instantly became a New York Times bestseller. This book was also deemed as the first biography written from the perspective of a young trans person in the world.
After her first book, Mock continued to work in print and media and share her views with the world. She used her newfound popularity to empower trans people worldwide and produced the HBO documentary The Trans List, worked on creating the Allure magazine column ‘Beauty Beyond Binaries,’ and even started Never Before with Pineapple Street Media, an interview podcast series. To further the cause, she also launched a social media campaign called #GirlsLikeUs to empower transgender women in 2012.
A year later, Mock joined the board of directors at the Arcus Foundation to advocate for LGBT rights. In 2014, she was interviewed by Oprah Winfrey for Super Soul Sunday and has been interviewed by countless other media outlets ever since to change the narrative about trans women. In addition, Mock has been featured on multiple lists, including; TIME magazine’s ‘100 Most Influential People’ list, Variety magazine’s ‘Power of Women’ list, Ebony magazine’s ‘Ebony 100,’ Fast Company’s ‘Most Creative People in Business,’ and Oprah magazine’s ‘SuperSoul100.’
In 2017, Mock wrote a follow-up, Surpassing Certainty, that talks about her 20s in New York, working as a contributing editor for the magazine, touring as a public speaker and advocating for trans rights. By living in the spotlight with grace to set an example, Mock has used her platform to simplify the narratives of what it means to be trans. In 2019, Mock signed a historic deal with Netflix, making her the first trans person to sign a production deal with a leading studio. At just 38, she has inspired an entire gender-expansive generation to dream more boldly about our personal and collective futures.
Conclusively, she says, “I believe that telling our stories, first to ourselves and then to one another and the world, is a revolutionary act. It is an act that can be met with hostility, exclusion, and violence. It can also lead to love, understanding, transcendence, and community. I hope that my being real with you will help empower you to step into who you are and encourage you to share yourself with those around you.”